Hidden Talents – Katrina Mansfield – Fluid Artist

The arts team would like to gratefully thank Juliet Stott for the following interview with Katrina Mansfield…

When she’s not working part-time in York Hospital’s gynaecology department, you’ll find fluid artist Katrina Mansfield creating beautiful abstract art in PICA Studios on Grape Lane in York.  PICA is an artist collective, there are currently 27 of us that use the space and disciplines include fine artists, illustrators, jewellers, ceramicists, photographers, textiles, filmmakers and writers.

We sat down and chatted to Katrina who talked about art as a form of meditation, self-expression and something anyone can do.

Katrina Mansfield has always been creative, ever since she was little. She loved art at school and went on to university to study photography and filmmaking in Lincoln, where you couldn’t get her out of the dark room.

Over the years she’s tried all sorts of art forms. But her favourite medium is abstract; inspired by the likes of Pollock, Kandinsky and Rachel Whiteread.

Drawn to abstract elements like patterns, shapes and blends, she admits she absolutely loves a blended colour gradient, which is visible in her work today.

“I geek out on it. I especially enjoy watching one colour go into a completely different one. You get these wonderful textures and mixtures in the middle, which is definitely something I use in my work right now,” she says.

Abstract art has always been a focus throughout all her creative work; and recently she morphed the abstract into recognisable forms using fluid art.

Katrina started off using acrylic paints, which she says was great fun. But quickly moved on to experimenting with ink; water-based first, which didn’t give her the look she wanted, then tried alcohol-based inks.

Playing around with inks she soon discovered Yupo Paper, a kind of synthetic paper you can pour the ink on to without it sinking in immediately.

Inspired by the inks’ movement she began experimenting with her hairdryer, helping her to create the wonderful effects you see in her pieces today.

“It’s called fluid art, so you’re meant to let the ink do what it wants to do. I like to guide it with the air from the hairdryer, but mostly its allowed to flow of its own accord,” she says.

As a passionate and committed vegetarian, her love for animals, in particular bunnies, is her inspiration. In fact, her first painting, and probably her most popular, was of a hare.

She says: “I love the way animals move; the fact that they can jump, fly, and do all these things better than us effectively. I wanted to capture that movement within the fluid art I create.”

The animal designs begin on her iPad. This helps to guide where the piece is going. Once she’s happy with the design, she’ll print it out to scale, creating a stencil by drawing it onto tracing paper.

Next, she takes a blank canvas of Yupo Paper, draws her outline on to it, then uses a sticky back vinyl to cover the negative spaces; leaving the animal shape as the only part of the page she can put ink on to.

“It looks really messy when I start doing a piece it. I’ll put loads of ink onto the page, and it goes everywhere. It’s really hard to control. The vinyl comes off at the end, and reveals the animal underneath, which is such a satisfying feeling,” she says.

As a regular meditator, Katrina likes to create calm moments for herself where mind is just a little bit quieter. She says creating art is another form of meditation.

“When I’m creating something, it takes me to another level. It makes me feel calmer, more productive. Thoughts come up, and they’re there, but I can see them for what they really are,” she says.

For her, art is very subjective and all about self-expression. It’s about doing what you want to do she says. And it’s something that anyone can do. It doesn’t have to be a Rembrandt or Monet for it to be “art”.

So why not give it a go?

Here Katrina shares her ten top tips on how to get started:-

Katrina’s ten top tips for getting started with Fluid Art

  1. Start with acrylics: Mainly because they’re a bit more forgiving. Plus, they’re a little bit more fun. And they don’t emit any fumes either.
  2. Put some plastic or paper down first: It is quite messy. So put some paper or plastic or something on the floor so you don’t get paint all over the place.
  3. Buy cheap paint: It doesn’t have to be expensive paint for it to work.
  4. Add washing up liquid: It’s nice to put an additive in like washing up liquid as it gives you a kind of bubble effect the in the paint when you pour it.
  5. Use a canvas: If you’re going to use acrylic definitely work on a canvas with a frame just because it’s sturdier. You can buy them pretty cheap from places Hobbycraft.
  6. Create layers: Layer up different colours in a paper cup. Fill the cup all the way to the top. You can repeat colours. Let the paint settle for a few minutes. 
  7. Place your canvas on top of the cup: Turn both over so the cup is now upside down on top of the canvas. 
  8. Add white paint: Pour some white paint around the edge of the cup. 
  9. Pull the cup away and release the paint: Once it’s settled a bit, gently tilt the canvas until the paint reaches the edges. Leave to dry over night. 
  10. Watch others for inspiration: Look at other artists to see what they’re doing for inspiration and experiment. Take a look at fluid artist Callen Schaub on Instagram. Using acrylic, he’ll pour paint onto a canvas and spin it.

Don’t be frightened to give it a go, says Katrina. “It doesn’t have to look exacting. Remember art is a form of self-expression. But if you want it to look a certain way, keep trying. You’ll eventually get there.” And remember, just get creative because it is a very mindful thing to do.

You can find Katrina Mansfield’s work for sale on her website, in Fabrication on Coney Street, York, or on Etsy. You can meet her in person at the York River Art Market (26th June – end of August) and at this year’s York Open Studios (11/12 July & 17/18 July) where she’ll be at PICA Studios on Grape Lane.

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